We just returned from a wonderful trip to Dutchess County, New York. Less than two hours from Manhattan, Dutchess County is filled with hundreds of ways to learn about American history, agriculture, and the arts. Check out dutchesstourism.com for advice, suggestions, itineraries, and maps. I'll have a full write up of our travels in two weeks.
Whenever we travel, we always check our National Parks Passport and our Presidential Library Passport to see if there are any locations near our destination. We hit a double when we found The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum and the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, both located on the same property in Hyde Park, New York. We love the National Park Service (read about why here) and our son is quickly becoming a presidential scholar, so we had to spend the morning exploring the complex. America’s first presidential library and museum was designed by FDR himself and opened to the public in 1941. The museum has over 400 collections, including 51,00 volumes and 150,000 photographs, negatives and audiovisual items, as well as plenty of research and meeting spaces.
Traveling with Kids:
- Children under fifteen are free for either the museum or the house tour. You can purchase separate or combo tickets. Bonus: Your admission ticket is valid for two consecutive days.
- The grounds and gardens are free to explore and open dusk to dawn.
- Start in the Visitor Center and check out the mosaic pictorial map of the area on the floor. There is a twenty two minute introductory video that runs every half hour included with either admission ticket.
- Bring the stroller for younger children if you plan to walk the grounds. And as you’re walking through the grounds, watch out for geese droppings as there are tons of geese who roam freely on the property. There is a tram that brings visitors throughout areas on the grounds.
- Restrooms are located in the Visitor Center, both floors of the museum and next to the Carriage House.
- The New Deal Gift Shop is located in the Visitor Center. Don’t forget to get your National Park passport stamps and your Presidential Library Passport stamp. Make sure your child picks up a Junior Ranger booklet to earn a Junior Ranger badge.
- Uncle Sam’s Canteen, located in the Visitor’s Center, serves breakfast and lunch items from 10am-4pm
Five Ways to Explore the FDR Complex:
1. The one hour tour of Springwood, FDR’s family home is better suited for older children, as there is no place to sit on the tour, and there is little interaction besides the stories of the tour guide. Highlights of the tour of the home include FDR’s birds of Hudson Valley collection; the dinner “gong” that FDR’s mother, Sarah, used to call the children in for dinner; and, the furnished rooms with clothing, mementos, toys, and furniture used by the Roosevelt family. Tours are usually offered every half hour, with more specific hours during the off peak winter hours. Tours leave from the Visitor’s Center, and include stops at the Home Garden, Rose Garden, Burial Site, and Springwood, with time to stop at the Carriage House, after the tour.
2. Younger children will be more engaged in many of the hands on aspects of the museum. It’s located behind the Visitor’s Center and covers two floors, with an elevator and restrooms on both floors. There are many exhibits organized by time period. Children will especially like sitting at a table and listening to a “Fireside Chat” excerpt, watching actual film footage of FDR's speeches and public engagements, seeing FDR’s actual office (and wheelchair) used during his presidency and his Oval Office desk used in the White House, a bronze statue of Fala, FDR’s Scottish terrier, FDR’s 1936 Ford Phaeton car, and a display with the contents of everything in Eleanor Roosevelt’s wallet in 1962. The lower level includes displays some items of the permanent collection, including model ships, paintings, sculptures, furniture, and books (there’s over 22,00 volumes of FRD’s personal books alone!)
3. Walk to the Rose Garden and Carriage House to the right of Springwood. The Rose Garden has many varieties of roses and others flowers as a beautiful setting for the graves of the Roosevelts. The Carriage House displays dozens of horse show ribbons from the 1930s and authentic riding gear. The names of the horses are still displayed on the stalls.
4. The Beatrix Farrand Garden is located to the left of the Visitor Center, behind the Bellefield estate, now home to National Parks administrative offices. Children will love opening the wooden latch doors reminiscent of a secret garden. There are many varieties of flowers in the garden to explore and keep watch for butterflies. Directly outside of the garden is a covered pavilion with plenty of picnic tables for an outdoor lunch.
5. The Home Garden is the most recent addition to the grounds of the home. Originally planted and harvested by the Roosevelt family for their daily consumption, the garden has recently been replanted and grows many vegetables ranging from squash and beans to tomatoes and cucumbers. Some of the harvest is used in the cafe on site, but most crops are donated to the Poughkeepsie Food Bank.
If you want even more info on the Roosevelts, check out the following nearby locations:
Val Kill is the only National Historic site dedicated to a first lady. Guided tours, the only way to visit the home, are usually offered every hour during peak summer and fall seasons, with more limited tours midweek during off peak seasons. Tours begin with an 15 minute introductory video and then 45 minutes to explore the cottage. There are also permanent exhibits in Stone Cottage and the Playhouse. There’s even a Junior Ranger booklet for children to earn a Junior Ranger badge.
Top Cottage was FDR’s private oasis during his second and third terms as president. It is located on a secluded part of his estate in Hyde Park and it is only accessible by guided tour from a shuttle bus that leaves the Visitor’s Center a few times each day. The entire tour takes two hours (including transportation) and is not recommended for children.
Eating Locally: Across the street from the property is the Hyde Park Brewing Company, which boasts at least six house made beers on tap at any time. The extensive menu has something for everyone, with tons of burgers, salads, sandwiches, and pizza choices, along with many vegetarian and entree options (the garlic steak was my favorite), and a great children’s menu (dessert included!). Note: The restaurant is closed for lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays.